Welcome to Bae Watch Wednesday, where I tell you all about the fictional characters you ought to be crushing on. This week’s bae is Rey Skywalker!
Who is Rey Skywalker?
Rey Skywalker is the main character of the sequel trilogy of Star Wars. Throughout the course of the three movies, Rey finds a family, discovers her past, and saves the galaxy. But she wasn’t always a big deal. Long before she was Rey Skywalker, she was Rey Nobody from Jakku. When we first meet her, Rey is a scavenger, living off paltry rations earned by selling scrap from downed spacecraft. Rey was left on Jakku by her parents when she was very young, and despite how long it’s been, she still waits for them. It’s a less than ideal existence. Luckily, something comes along to change things up.
That something is BB-8, a droid with the Resistance. BB-8 came to Jakku with Poe Dameron, who entrusted him with a secret map the Resistance needs to find the fabled hero Luke Skywalker. After Poe is captured, BB-8 is left alone wandering the desert. Rey saves him from another scavenger, and BB-8 sticks with her. When BB-8 finds a man wearing Poe’s jacket, Rey meets Finn, a former stormtrooper on the run masquerading as a Resistance officer.
They set out to return BB-8 to the Resistance base. Things go predictably awry, for Star Wars. Finn reveals the truth and begs Rey to run away with him. Rey is captured by the evil Kylo Ren. A superweapon is poised to destroy the Resistance. While Finn mounts a rescue mission, Rey manages to free herself through strange powers she doesn’t understand. She is Force-sensitive and is able to use her newfound power to defeat Ren and escape with a badly-injured Finn. While Finn lingers in a coma, Rey sets out to find Luke Skywalker and learn from him how to use the Force and become a Jedi.
Things don’t go as planned with Luke. The fabled hero of old who stopped an empire is vanished, leaving instead a bitter, defeated old man who has closed himself off from the Force entirely. He is thoroughly unimpressed with Rey Nobody from Jakku and rejects her requests for aid. He especially refuses to teach her the ways of the Jedi. That way lies destruction, at least in his mind. It was Luke’s failure as a teacher that led to Kylo Ren. Rey is able to convince him to help, at least a little, though Luke’s lessons are mostly meant to scare her away.
In the meantime, a strange connection develops between Rey and Ren that allows them to see each other across the galaxy. Ren tries to convince Rey that he isn’t a monster, and shows her how Luke failed him. Rey, who is as lonely as ever, leans on this connection. She later has a vision that she can turn Ren away from the Dark Side and redeem him. Rey sets out to do so, against the advice of Luke. When she reaches Ren, they bond further. When Ren’s master Snoke tells him to kill her, he kills Snoke instead. The two fight together against his guards and Rey thinks she was right.
Unfortunately, the darkness is too ingrained. Ren doesn’t want to become good, he wants Rey to join him on the Dark Side. She rejects him and escapes, returning to the Resistance and Finn. They escape extermination by Ren’s troop’s thanks to Luke, who returns as the mythical hero for one last exploit. Although Luke dies, Rey is able to continue her training with his sister, the Resistance General Leia Organa. As the Resistance struggles to rebuild, Rey works to become worthy of Luke’s legacy.
Sometime later, news strikes the galaxy that the evil Emperor Palpatine has returned. His Final Order is threatening to destroy any planet unaligned with the Ren’s First Order, and the Resistance must save the galaxy once again. Rey has been staying on base to study with Leia but heads out on a mission with Finn, Poe Dameron, and Chewbacca to stop the Final Order. Along the way, they run into Ren, who is also fighting against Palpatine. Ren reveals a shocking truth: Rey is actually Palpatine’s granddaughter. She was never Rey Nobody – she’s Rey Palpatine.
Shocked and appalled by the truth, Rey begins to struggle with her emotions and darkness. In a fierce duel, she kills Kylo Ren with his own lightsaber. At the same moment, however, she feels Leia – Ren’s mother – die in an effort to reach him. Realizing she has betrayed the legacy of the Jedi who trained her, Rey heals Ren. She then leaves him and flees, afraid of her own power. She encounters the ghost of Luke Skywalker, who tells her that her family does not define her. She has always been good and done the right thing. Now it’s time to do so again.
Rey sets out to stop the Final Order, leading the Resistance to Palpatine’s base. She faces off against her grandfather, who nearly convinces her to sacrifice herself to save her friends. However, thanks to unexpected assistance in the form of a redeemed Kylo Ren, she is able to defeat Palpatine. She gives her life in the effort, though she is revived by Ren in a last moment of redemption before his death. Victorious, Rey returns to the Resistance and the family she found there. She takes on the name Rey Skywalker, in honor of her teachers and their legacy.
Why Is Rey Skywalker Bae?
No matter what your overall feelings regarding the sequel trilogy, it can’t be denied that the films gave us some great characters. From the dashing hero Poe Dameron to the brave and principled Finn, there’s a lot to love. But Rey is definitely the star of the show (and has the best music, fight me).
Rey’s innocent optimism, faith in her friends, and courage in the face of danger make her compelling, and Daisy Ridley plays all her facets – even the less ideal ones – to perfection. Ridley’s Rey is charming, affectionate, and utterly likable, and it’s a real shame that we probably won’t see any more of her.
A New Jedi
One of the best things about Rey is how she takes on the mantle of the Jedi. We’ve had three trilogies about the Jedi and their role and legacy. In the original trilogy, we get a simplistic but essentially good view of the Jedi. Luke trains to be a Jedi to honor his father’s legacy, even after he learns the truth about Anakin. Our only hint of negativity is Obi-Wan lying to Luke and some implications of manipulation. But the prequel trilogy massively complicates the Jedi legacy. The Jedi of old were set in their ways, blind to reality, and overly bureaucratic. While they aren’t exactly to blame for Palpatine, they’re not innocent.
The Last Jedi seems to push for this more complex view of the Jedi. All we know from The Force Awakens is that the Jedi have disappeared and that Luke Skywalker has faded into myth. The Last Jedi explains why – Luke began to believe the Jedi were wrong and needed to be eradicated. But over the course of the film, he sees a new side of things. This is purely because of Rey, who will bring forth a new era of Jedi free from the tangled history. In fact, Rey’s optimism and determination even inspire Luke to take up the mantle of hero one last time.
Moving forward, Rey will be a new kind of Jedi. She recognizes the past and its importance – after all, she takes on the name Rey Skywalker to honor the legacy of her teachers – but also sees the value in moving on. She will not be encumbered by the failures of past Jedi. Instead, she will start a new movement, train new and interesting people (maybe even Finn!). With Rey at the head, these new Jedi will protect the galaxy.
The story of the sequel trilogy is, at its core, the story of Rey and family. She is haunted from the first moment we meet her by the trauma of her past and losing her family. Little moments, like etching the days since she was left on Jakku on the wall, showcase that she cannot move on. Even after she leaves Jakku, she is desperate to return and await her family. When Maz Kanata points out that her family isn’t coming – that she knows this – Rey turns instead to a new family, in the people she has found like Finn and Han Solo.
Unfortunately, these connections are tenuous. When Han is killed by his son Kylo Ren and Finn is left in a coma, Rey is left anchorless. She sets out to find Luke, who may not be family, but can be a mentor. Then, when Luke doesn’t live up to her expectations, she turns to Ren, whose connection with her preys on her loneliness. She even has a vision of herself all alone, with no connections or ties. This is what sets her up to go to Ren, even though he betrays her and attacks the Resistance.
The legacy of Rey’s family becomes paramount in The Rise of Skywalker when we learn that she is a Palpatine. However, at this point, Rey realizes that it doesn’t matter what her name is or who she is descended from. What matters is the connections she builds and fosters with the people she cares about. Her family is the Resistance, is Finn, Poe, and Chewie (and, of course, BB-8). Her family is Luke and Leia, who guided and cared for her. She makes her own family, they don’t make her. She rejects the Palpatine legacy in favor of her chosen family.
What’s Not To Love?
From the first moment, we met Rey on Jakku, sliding down a sand dune with her hauntingly sweet melody playing, I was sold. Rey in The Force Awakens is everything a hero should be. She’s kind, fixing BB-8’s broken antenna and letting him stay with her. She’s selfless, giving up food rations to protect BB-8 and going on an adventure despite her need to stay rooted to Jakku. As we progress, we see that she is talented and excitable, quick-thinking, and brave – she stands up to the scariest man in the galaxy. She’s also lonely, desperate for connection, and haunted by her past.
For me, Rey – whether that’s Rey Nobody or Rey Palpatine or Rey Skywalker – is what Star Wars should be. She’s a new hope, a last Jedi. She’s the future of the galaxy, just beginning her journey. And of course, she makes mistakes along the way (everything involving Kylo Ren) – she is still human. If Rey was just a perfect, always right character, she wouldn’t be very interesting. Rey’s flaws make her more compelling, especially as we see her overcome them.
Rey Skywalker is the future of Star Wars and the perfect ending for the saga. We’ve seen empires rise and fall, heroes turn to villains and villains to heroes. Worlds have been destroyed, and wars have been won. Now, the galaxy can move forward in a new era of hope. Rey Skywalker is the symbol of that hope. She symbolizes a new order of Jedi, a step forward for the Resistance, and a hero for all the lonely, lost people in the galaxy. Her future is bright, and I know she will do great things. She was Rey Nobody of Jakku, a sad, lost child. Now she’s Rey Skywalker, moving forward with the galaxy.